As it progresses, it can spread to other joints and often has a severe impact on daily tasks and the quality of life. If arthritis is present in a weight-bearing joint, walking, sitting up straight and gripping everyday objects may be difficult. In severe cases, the joints can become twisted and gnarled by the progression of the disease, resulting in a complete inability to do once-easy tasks.
Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. The term means a specific inflammation of the joints when used by medical professionals, but in general, the term covers more than 100 diseases and conditions that affect joints, tissues surrounding the joints and other connective tissues.
More than 52 million adults have been diagnosed with arthritis. Older adults are more prone to arthritis than the younger, with close to 50 percent of people older than age 65 having some symptoms of the affliction.
Women of any age have slightly more cases of arthritis than men, with 26 percent of women having symptoms versus 19 percent of men. When measuring by ethnicity, non-Hispanic whites and blacks and American Indian/Alaska natives suffer most from arthritis, all roughly in the early to mid-20 percent range. Hispanics have slightly more than 15 percent of their population afflicted with arthritis symptoms, while Asian/Pacific Islanders have about 10 percent of the population with arthritis symptoms.